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Gallagher attorney to rep Monserrate in assault trial

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Facing an impending criminal trial for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) has swapped out his legal representation in favor of the man who defended former City Councilman Dennis Gallagher against rape charges last year.

Joseph Tacopina, who also defended pop star Michael Jackson against child molestation charges and Joran Van Der Sloot, the Dutch teen suspected of murdering teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005, will take over from Irving Seidman, who represented Monserrate during the preliminary court appearances.

Monserrate, 41, is accused of slashing his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, in the face with a broken glass during an argument in his Jackson Heights apartment Dec. 19. Both Monserrate and Giraldo have said the injuries were accidental.

Monserrate, who was indicted by a grand jury last month, is scheduled to appear in court June 26. He faces three counts of felony assault and three counts of misdemeanor assault. If convicted, he could be sentenced to as long as seven years in prison.

At several court appearances, Seidman argued that the language in the criminal complaint and hospital officials’ notes indicate Monserrate “struck” Giraldo with the glass. “Struck” does not imply an attack, Seidman said.

The senator got into the argument with Giraldo after he found another man’s police union card in her purse. Prosecutors allege Monserrate broke a glass in his hand and struck Giraldo in the face with it during the fight. Giraldo has claimed Monserrate tripped and fell into her while holding the glass.

Monserrate drove Giraldo from his Jackson Heights apartment to North Shore−Long Island Jewish Hospital, where she received stitches around her left eye. Medical staff there contacted police and Monserrate was arrested shortly afterward.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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